A choir of 60 Canadians, Jewish and non-Jewish, recently sang “O Canada in Yiddish in a TV studio in Toronto. There’s a sweet and touching video of the performance now on YouTube, and The Globe and Mail newspaper ran a news article as well. Simon Spiro conducted the choir and pianist David Warrack tickled the kyes.
The event was produced by Moses Znaimer.
“It started with a question about whether this had ever been done,” Hindy Nosek-Abelson, who did the Yiddish translation, told a reporter for the Globe and Mail. “The idea passed through a chain of people, including [novelist] Margaret Atwood and [artist] Charles Pachter. Then I had dinner with Marilyn Lightstone [host of the late-night show Nocturne on the Znaimer-controlled radio station the New Classical FM, and Znaimer’s long-time partner]. She said, ‘I love it, and I’m going to tell Moses about it.’ It’s thanks to Moses and Marilyn that it happened.”
How did all this happen? According to Pachter, who was part of the choir (along with his partner, Keith Lem), he received an e-mail from Atwood a few months ago.
“She asked me if I knew of anyone who could organize singing the anthem in Yiddish.”
Atwood was following up on a request from a Jewish climate activist who had received an e-mail from a New York Times reporter asking if he knew how many languages the anthem had been translated into.
“I kind of heard my father’s voice and his praise of Canada and his gratitude for being here,” she told The Globe and Mail. “He felt the way so many Jewish immigrants did after centuries of persecution, culminating in the Holocaust. This was the first time in their life they didn’t feel tentative. I grew up in a totally Yiddish-speaking household with tremendous gratitude for being in Canada. My parents never learned to speak English, but that didn’t diminish the gratitude they had for being here.”